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Graveyard - Graveyard

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Artist: Graveyard

Album: Graveyard

Label: Tee Pee

Review date: Feb. 15, 2008

It’s tough to approach Gothenburg, Sweden’s Graveyard and not feel like they’re just another patch in their country’s quilt of bald-faced reverence towards rock music. In past years we’ve had Dungen, Witchcraft, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, the Hives, Deadman, and dozens more all paying tribute to, more or less, a specific piece of rock history between them. Extrapolate further back on the scale and you’ll recall the same attention paid to punk, hair metal, and Detroit garage rock via the Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, Gluecifer, the Demons, and more. Many Swedish acts cite boredom as the impetus behind their learning how to play music and starting these bands, but it’d seem like there’s a cultural imperative at play to systematically recreate pockets of rock’s past within Swedish territory, safe from the polarizing factors that enabled those men who would become, say, the Stooges, the MC5, the Grateful Dead, the Stranglers, and so on.

This music has its vocal opponents, to be sure; when was the last time you read a good review of a Witchcraft record written by someone who wasn’t a slavish devotee to all things doom? Or a piece about Dungen that focuses on what the music accomplishes, rather than the flaws within? Such is the issue with re-enactments. We’re left to study a reinterpretation of something we have at hand, without the context required that made the thing being reinterpreted viable in the first place, and while it’s not a Disneyification of rock, it’s not necessarily something that can be gleaned outside of the actual Swedish experience.

Which brings us to Graveyard. Their name, their long manes, the rich Christian pageant of artwork which dons the sleeve to their self-titled debut, and the implicit earth-magick, Godless conquering of their Viking heritage, all point towards the sort of eternal yet righteous path of branded evil that bands have been foisting on us since Black Sabbath. Funny, though, that you so rarely hear about Sabbath contemporaries like Black Widow or Coven, who actively supported Satanism as a legitimate niche of popular music but who couldn’t so much as lift Sabbath’s codpieces when it came to delivering the evil within the music.

Graveyard, sadly, falls into that category, though they’re far better than either the memory or the reality of those earlier also-rans. Simply put, if Witchcraft had more of Bill Ward’s swing, a more pronounced blues-cum-grunge outlook, and a singer who was shooting for Chris Cornell instead of a folk troubadour, they’d be interchangeable with Graveyard.

And that’s the problem with Graveyard, their own contemporaries, and this slavish devotion to re-enactment as a whole. Bands in the ‘70s weren’t trying to find ways to rock harder by toning things down, which both Witchcraft and Graveyard are guilty of. They also wouldn’t be weathering the sort of comparisons to other bands if they had gotten to the point where they could play past their direct influences and moved on to crafting their own sound. It’s not hard to imagine Blue Oyster Cult writing a song like “Right is Wrong.” But BOC would have done so in a way that is by turns more subtle and more bombastic, because they likely felt the very real pressures of direct competition from tourmates, as well as from their record company to deliver a saleable product – that, and they’re just a superior band to Graveyard.

It’s too easy to sit here and play God with these bands, though. I know that in a month’s time I will be in a venue where Graveyard is playing, and I will likely enjoy myself watching their set. I will in particular look forward to album opener “Evil Ways” and also “Lost in Confusion,” which are as burly as they come on this record, and will probably be headed for the bar upon the logy opening strokes of “Blue Soul.” And I will be intrigued to see the musicianship on display here, particularly the vocal heroics of frontman Joakim Nilsson. But ultimately, if I want these sorts of thrills, I’m going to my collection to pull out Sir Lord Baltimore or the first Captain Beyond album. I like sure things, and at this stage it’s looking like Graveyard’s not one of them.

By Doug Mosurock

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